Drug charges dropped
Judge calls RCMP search in cocaine case 'irresponsible and imprudent'

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (Sep 07/98) - A man facing numerous judge charges breathed a massive sigh of relief when NWT Supreme Court Justice Michel Monnin read his verdict in territorial court last Thursday morning.

The man, charged with several narcotics-related crimes in Iqaluit over the last year and a half, listened as Justice Monnin ruled that all charges against him would be stayed.

The man, who has been in custody since March of 1998, was released later the same day. Defence counsel Andrew Fox filed the application for the stay of proceedings, arguing a June 16 RCMP search of a file the accused had while he was in custody was illegal.

Because of a publication ban requested by Crown attorney Brad Allison, little of the actual evidence can be reported, but the file allegedly contained defence information the accused planned to discuss with his lawyer and eventually use in court.

Justice Monnin, who was brought up from Manitoba to hear the case, ruled that while the seizure of the file was fair and reasonable, the actual searching of it by the RCMP violated the sacred solicitor-client relationship and further intruded upon the man's constitutional rights.

Justice Monnin called the police actions "irresponsible and imprudent" and said that because of the search, the man could not possibly have access to a fair trial.

Justice Monnin said that while some members of society would see the matter as the accused being freed on a technicality, others would realize that if the proceedings were not stayed, "the administration of justice would be in disrepute."

Trials for the other accused begin this month and are expected to run through to December.